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Better urban transport starts with MaaS

What does the future of transport look like? Electric cars? Self-driving vehicles? The elevated bus just released in China? There’s a lot to get excited about in terms of technological development, but ask commuters what they want to see in their cities and they are most likely to answer: “Just make it better.”

The layout of our cities, particularly in Europe, is vastly different. How would the elevated bus get around the corners of inner London? And can a self-driving car successfully negotiate Paris’ Arc de Triomphe roundabout? If we are to provide truly better transport, then we must first look at providing choice – that’s the challenge for today’s city planner. We need to bring together all of the different operators, technology providers and developers and build a framework upon which any transport mode can run smoothly.Keeping Our Cities Moving graph

Understanding commuter choice

In a survey of 19 major European cities, 43 per cent of commuters agreed with the statement “Public transport provision will heavily affect my choice(s) of where to live and work.”

The reality is, commuters will use whatever is most convenient, and that could change from city to city and day by day. Cities must get better at understanding and facilitating transportation choice. The good news is we have the technological expertise to achieve it.

Today, most cities run separate back office systems for each operation: a congestion charge back office system, a bike hire back office system, a public transport fare collection back office system and so on. All of these back office systems hold similar data and manage similar transactions, and there is no good reason why they cannot become integrated, with one system supporting several services. This would make it easier to extract useful information from collected data and would, of course, reduce the number of individual registration procedures for customers.

Keeping our cities moving lays out our vision for smart transportation systems and traffic flows that get people where they need to be. It is based upon the results of a survey of 1,900 people who use transportation systems in 19 European cities.

We’re already seeing this kind of model appearing through Uber/Uber Eats. We want the convenience of different services in a single place. Applied city-wide, integrated services will put users at the heart of the transport network. They will offer tailor-made travel services based on preferences and the means to achieve the smarter, simplified transportation landscape envisioned and expected by future users.

It’s a concept that’s become known as “Mobility-as-a- Service.”

Mobility-as-a-Service – what’s that?

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) combines all forms of personal transport (bike and car sharing, trains, buses, metro, etcetera) together into seamless journeys, with bookings and payments managed collectively, often via a mobile app.

What this means is that commuters can get reliable and comprehensive information and access to all the means of transport available, without long-term commitment, or the need to own a vehicle themselves. It’s the “sharing economy” brought to transport.

The public and private sectors have a huge opportunity to develop MaaS models together, pioneering new ways to get around that also set the groundwork for transport modes to come.

Working together to achieve better

Discussion around the future of transport can often sound like science fiction but in reality, it simply involves cities making greater use of the technology available so they can improve the quality of life of their citizens. Right now the future is about building an intelligent transportation system, where all moving parts work together.

As our urban populations continue to grow, cities will use MaaS to evolve into smart transportation networks where all systems — vehicles, infrastructure and transit hubs — are communicating with each other in real time. So it will be irrelevant whether a Transit Elevated Bus or robot car takes you to work. What commuters will notice is that it’s better than before.